A personal reflection on immigration reform

There's an old saying, "To truly understand me, walk a mile in my shoes." Well, on February 22 of this year I had the chance to do just that when I was part of a group that spent the day walking with the Dream Walkers on their 1,500-mile walk from Miami, Florida, to Washington, D.C.

Walker
One of the Dream Walkers, Carlos, wears a t-shirt with the message "Undocumented? Everyone has a story... but not all are heard."
Photo: Ron Blaum

There’s an old saying, “To truly understand me, walk a mile in my shoes.”  Well, on February 22 of this year I had the chance to do just that when I was part of a group that spent the day walking with the Dream Walkers on their 1,500-mile walk from Miami, Florida, to Washington, D.C.  The Dream Walkers are four college age students who are walking to draw attention to their plight as undocumented residents of the United States.  All were brought here by their parents as young children, were raised here, and attended elementary and high school here.  This is the only home they’ve ever known.  

They are honor students who have been recognized for their leadership and academic achievements.  But because of their undocumented status, they cannot get a social security number, and because of that, are denied admission to the colleges and universities to which they have applied.  They cannot even get a driver’s license.  They are walking to highlight the fact that they are not in hiding and want to do the right thing – become legal citizens – however, our immigration laws make it nearly impossible for that to happen.

I have to admit my own ignorance on this point because I believed that anyone who truly wanted to become a citizen of the United States could do so through naturalization.  Not so.  In looking up the process for naturalization, the very first requirement is being a “lawful permanent resident.”  Without that status, there is no legal path to citizenship short of having unlimited resources to work through an immigration attorney.  

While I know immigration reform is a volatile topic in this country, I was shocked to learn that the laws governing immigration provide little recourse for those who want to do the right thing: be legal, contributing members of society.  

Now that I’ve walked in those shoes, even if for just one day, I am doing what I can to encourage reform, especially for those who only know this land as their home.

Ronald Blaum, Church World Service

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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